The Emergent Market for Information Professionals - IDEALS @ Illinois

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The Emergent Market for Information Professionals: Educational Opportunities and Implications BLAISECRONIN, MICHAELSTIFFLER, AND DOROTHY DAY

ABSTRACT THESCALE AND SCOPE of the emergent market for information professionals are outlined. National and state-level data are used to define employment opportunities and educational requirements. The data were derived from: (1) content analysis of job advertisements, (2) survey responses from library school graduates, and (3) field interviews with information specialists. Market opportunities and constraints are identified. Repositioning strategies for schools of library and information science are proposed.

BACKGROUND Machlup’s (1962) and Porat’s (1977) landmark analyses of the U.S. economy highlighted the growing importance of the information and knowledge industries. Today, the primary and secondary information sectors account for a significant proportion of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and the GNP (Gross National Product) in many developed economies. The labor market implications of such rapid economic transformations are likely to be profound, and they raise a host of questions relating to educational strategy and responsiveness, not least for the library and information science (LIS) community (e.g., Angell, 1987; Brinberg, 1986; Brittain, 1989; Turner & Bray, 1989). Despite persistent terminological and scholarly Blaise Cronin, School of Library and Information Science, Indiana University, Bloomington IN 47405 Michael Stiffler, Noblesville-Southeastern Public Library, One Library Plaza, Noblesville, IN 46060 Dorothy Day, School of Library and Information Science, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405 LIBRARY TRENDS, Vol. 42, No. 2, Fall 1993, pp. 257-76 @ 1993 The Board of Trustees, University of Illinois



wrangling about the exact nature of an information society, certain common assumptions seem to hold true (Locksley, 1990): Each construct gives particular emphasis to one set of characteristics of the transforming economy and society. The status of information workers and information occupations are usually central within these paradigms. (p. 3)

In 1981, Debons et al. estimated the total information professional workforce-“those who were indisputably in the ‘hard core’ of professional information work” (p. 5)-in the United States at 1.64 million, a substantial refinement of the earlier global estimates. Yet only 19 percent of this group belonged to the category “library and information services.” Other studies speak confidently of the “invisible job market” (Harmon, 1987), “hidden job market” (Spivack, 1982), “emerging employment market for librarians and information workers” (Moore, 1987), “new intermediaries” (Arnold, 1987), “employment market for information professionals” (Moore, 1988), and “hinterland” (Cronin, 1993). This kind of thinking is not restricted to the United States and United Kingdom. Seeger (1987) made similar observations in the late 1980s relating to the situation in Germany and stressed the importance of moving beyond qualification profiles which were “almost exclusively directed towards typical job descriptions in one type of institution” (p. 170).

HEARTLAND, HINTERLAND, HORIZON At the risk of oversimplifying, the market for information professionals is three-layered: the heartland, the hinterland, and the horizon. The heartland can be defined in terms of traditional library or information units, largely staffed and managed by graduates of library and information science programs. The contexts and opportunities which characterize the hinterland are not defined in an institutional sense. This is the world of libraries-without-walls and distributed information systems, where disciplinary pedigree and professional affiliation matter less than perceived competence and adaptability. Here, diverse groups, ranging from information systems analysts through information scientists to communications specialists, happily co-exist and in